Vaccine-derived poliovirus detected in Burundi, Congo

JOHANNESBURG/LONDON, March 17 (Reuters) – Health officials in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have discovered cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus, according to the World Health Organization and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The WHO said the Burundian government had declared the discovery of the virus a national public health emergency after cases were confirmed in an unvaccinated four-year-old boy in western Burundi’s Isale district and two other children who were his contacts. .

Five other environmental surveillance samples of wastewater confirmed the presence of the circulating poliovirus type 2 in Burundi, the WHO added in a statement.

Circulating poliovirus type 2 differs from wild poliovirus, with infections occurring when an attenuated strain of poliovirus in the oral polio vaccine circulates for long periods among under-immunized populations.

The detections are significant because they are linked for the first time to the use of a new vaccine, the new oral poliomyelitis vaccine type 2 (nOPV2), which has been specifically developed to reduce this risk.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) said in a statement that the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 was found in six children in the eastern provinces of Tanganyika and South Kivu in the DRC.

Burundi plans to conduct a polio vaccination campaign for all eligible children up to age 7 in the coming weeks with help from WHO and GPEI, the WHO said.

“While the discovery of these outbreaks is a tragedy for affected families and communities, it is not unexpected given wider use of the vaccine,” said the GPEI, a partnership comprising the WHO, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global organizations. health organizations. bodies.

It said 600 million doses of the new vaccine had been administered in 28 countries since March 2021, reiterating that the vaccine was safe and effective.

The DRC has planned a vaccination campaign for April, the GPEI said.

Reporting by Bhargav Acharya in Johannesburg and Jennifer Rigby in London; Edited by Alexander Winning and Alex Richardson

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